‘Legend’ Royal Yacht Britannia crewman Ellis Norrell nicknamed ‘Norrie’ by the Queen dies at 87

THE longest serving crew member of Royal Yacht Britannia has died at the age of 87.

By Emily Jessica Turner
Monday, 11th October 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 1:57 pm

Portchester resident Ellis Norrell MVO RVM - known to his fellow crew members as Norrie - served onboard the yacht for 34 years, making him the longest ever serving Royal Yachtsman.

He passed away in the early morning of October 9 with his three daughters – Katrina (the eldest), her husband Rob, Sheena (middle), and Audrey (youngest) - with him at his bedside.

Ellis was married to Grace, who died 16 years ago, and was a grandfather to eight.

Ellis Norrell

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Born on December 7, 1933, Ellis joined the Royal Navy as a boy seaman at HMS St Vincent, Gosport, three months short of his 16th birthday.

On passing out he was drafted to the navy’s last big-gun ship, the battleship HMS Vanguard. He later put his name down to volunteer for Britannia, then a new royal yacht that was being built on the Clyde, and joined the 83rd royal yacht when still under the Red Ensign in 1953.

Ellis was on the yacht’s first voyage along with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, then aged five and three, as they sailed to Tobruk to meet their parents.

Ellis Norrell, left

This was the first of the yacht’s 948 official voyages, and Ellis was on every trip until 1988 when he retired. His long service even earned him familiarity with the Queen – who nicknamed him Norrie.

He was also onboard with the Prince and Princess of Wales on their honeymoon trip around the Greek islands.

He previously told how one day Diana had ‘gone up to the verandah deck and asked one of the seamen for a bucket which she filled with water’.

In an interview with The News in 2017, he added: ‘She then threw it all over her new husband from the upper deck soaking him, the future king of England.

Ellis Norrell has passed away at the age of 87

‘She couldn’t stop laughing. Of course, we all tried to keep straight faces but it wasn’t easy.’

Fellow former crew member John Turner, who served during the same time as Ellis, is the almoner for the Association of Royal Yachtsmen.

The association has a worldwide membership of 1,400 former crew members of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Ellis with friends enjoying a sing-a-long

John said: ‘I was a fellow crew member. Norrie was in charge of discipline on board and other things.

‘He was a really nice man and he had the thoughts and wellbeing of the crew in his mind all the time.

‘Norrie was instantly recognisable to the Queen and other members of the royal family, who he met dozens if not hundreds of times.

‘He was a legend in his own lifetime, and known throughout Portsmouth.’

In 1974 he was presented with the Royal Victorian Medal by the Queen, and on retirement in 1988 he went to Buckingham Palace to be presented with the Member of the Victoria Order for service to the Queen, again presented by the Queen herself.

In civilian life, Ellis worked at Windsor Castle.

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